A program that provides services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds at Kennebec Valley Community College got another five years of funding with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Farifield school announced Thursday that its TRiO Student Support Services Program, which assists more than 180 low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities, will receive $284,745 annually over the next five years for a total grant of about $1.4 million.

The grant was competitive, and KVCC got additional points for exceeding all its good academic standing, graduation and transfer objectives in the previous grant cycle — a testament to KVCC’s collegewide commitment to excellence in educational opportunity, according to a news release from the college.

Four positions at KVCC are funded by the grant now.

Lisa Black, TRiO program director for KVCC, said TRiO programs are especially important in a state like Maine, where high school graduation rates are high, but many residents over the age of 25 do not have a college degree.

“In some rural counties, like the ones KVCC serves, the percentage can be as high as 90 percent,” Black said in the release. “With traditional industries that used to require only a high school diploma and a good work ethic becoming scarcer every day, post-secondary education and the support TRIO provides to help students through to degree completion is crucial.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that TRIO programs change lives, and we are so lucky that this is part of the campus culture at KVCC.”

Dorothy Fowler, a KVCC TRiO student enrolled in the mental health associate degree program, said, “So many students, myself included, absolutely would not be here without TRIO. For one thing, the program provides the backing and support necessary for students like me, who might be returning to school after 32 years, to be successful,” she said, according to the news release.

The Federal TRiO programs provide outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. KVCC’s TRiO program, Student Support Services, is one of the eight grant programs that fall under the TRiO umbrella, all of which serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities as they progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post baccalaureate programs.

TRiO also includes a training program for directors and staff of TRiO projects.

The recipients of the grants, depending on the specific program, are institutions of higher education, public and private agencies and organizations including community-based organizations with experience in serving disadvantaged youth and secondary schools. Combinations of such institutions, agencies, and organizations may also apply for grants. These entities plan, develop and carry out the services for students. While individual students are served by these entities, they may not apply for grants under these programs. Additionally, in order to be served by one of these programs, a student must be eligible to receive services and be accepted into a funded project that serves the institution or school that student is attending or the area in which the student lives.